As we seek to establish communities of faith in America and the West that are worthy of the Master, feed your soul on some recent stories of persecution from Voice of the Martyrs. Let these stories do more than make you feel sympathetic to these believers’ plights… these brave saints have much to impart to us:
Pakistan – Young Christian Woman and her Father remain in Prison
Twenty-year old Sandul Bibi and her father Gulsher remain in prison in Pakistan despite four court hearings, according to VOM contacts.
“On Feb. 24 Sandul and Gulsher had another court appearance and nothing significant was determined,” VOM contacts said. “This has been the outcome for the last four court hearings.”
Sandul and Gulsher are charged with violating section 295-B of the Pakistani legal code, the ‘blasphemy’ law. Sandul is falsely accused of ripping pages from the Quran. On Oct. 9 a large crowd of Muslims attacked Christian families at a church, throwing stones and firing guns. They were shouting, ‘Kill Gulsher and his daughter Sandul.’ Sandul and her father, Gulsher Masih, were arrested after a mob from the local mosque surrounded their house. Loudspeakers from different mosques broadcast accusations that Christians had disgraced the Quran, calling Muslims to attack and burn their homes. The angry crowd threw stones and set fire to Sandul’s home. Christians believe Sandul and her father were targeted and arrested because they were aggressively winning villagers to Christ.
“Nothing will happen to me. They know and respect me. Nobody will harm me.”
Those were the last words Pastor Kantheswar Digal spoke to his son Rajendra and his wife, Karpul.
A Christian for more than 50 years, Pastor Digal was one of the few believers living in the small village of Sankarakhole, in Orissa state, India. He was well-known by the Hindus who shared his neighborhood. Yet, his son says, the family lived there in relative peace.
“We had no enemies there,” Rajendra told our VOM workers about his small hometown. “We could practice our faith in Christ comfortably with no problems with anybody locally.”
Nonetheless, on Aug. 24, 2008, when Hindu radicals began violent attacks against Christians throughout Orissa, venomous threats by agitators forced the Digal family to leave their village.
“They told my husband you better leave,” says Karpul. “He should leave his house and go away if he wanted to stay a Christian because they were not going to allow any Christians to stay in our village.” The Worst of the Worst
The brutality against Orissa Christians spawned by Hindu fundamentalists was unflinchingly complete. Homes were burned. Churches were destroyed. People were killed. The entire Digal family fled their small village in the Kandhalmal district to the slums of the state’s capital. All eight members were forced to live in a one-room, wooden shack.
On Sept. 20, 2008, Pastor Digal left his family in the makeshift shelter they had carved out for themselves. Over their objections he went to their home village to check on their house and livestock.
Pastor Digal was traveling on a local bus to his destroyed home when it was stopped by 18 Hindu radicals. What happened next was a horror unimaginable.
The radicals dragged Pastor Digal off the crowded, dusty bus. They ignored the sickening crunch of bone as both his legs broke. They proceeded to torture him, demanding that he return to Hinduism.
“I am a strong believer in Jesus Christ,” Pastor Digal said. “You may kill me but I will never become Hindu.”
The 18 men began to beat Pastor Digal. They tied his hands and legs. Witnesses watched as they stripped him of his clothes leaving nothing but a shirt. They burned his face and tortured him in unspeakable ways. Then they dumped this limp body in a creek where it floated for days. “We Never Got Angry”
Fourteen days later, after frantically calling around Orissa trying to find his father, Rajendra saw his mother on a local television broadcast. She held a black and white photo of his father. He was dead, killed by radical Hindus because he was a Christian. Even though she lost her husband Karpul says “we never got angry after hearing about the news about my husband’s killing.”
Her son agrees. “I do not carry anger towards them because my Jesus was once also killed on the cross for all mankind, for the entire sinful world,” Rajendra said. “My father dedicated his life for my village for people who still did not know Christ. I think for my village, my father also was killed. And by the sacrifice of his own life, they may know Jesus Christ and accept him as their only Lord and personal savior. ”
The Digals were one of the hundreds of people helped by VOM ministry partners, thanks to our readers. They received help with relocation, food and other basic necessities. But the aftermath of the horrific violence in Orissa has left tens of thousands of Indian Christians without homes, jobs or stability. In January the government closed the relief camps in Orissa leaving thousands homeless and without protection. Even with the uncertainty, Orissa Christians say they are strengthened by the prayers and love of Christians all over the world. Your love allows them to remain bold for Christ.
“We strongly believe that Christians all over the world are praying for us,” says Rajendra. “We are also praying for all of them. (Praying) that everyone should stand firm for witnessing for Jesus throughout their life.”
The Voice of the Martyrs has provided encouragement and financial help to “Mohammad” an Islamic apologist who converted to Christianity.
Before becoming a Christian, Mohammad wrote articles attempting to prove Islam was the only way to God. After they were written, however, Mohammad began to have doubts about Islam. He saw violence in Islam and heard his colleagues say that one day those who follow Islam will invade Europe and take their women. After hearing this, Mohammad was very disgusted.
Later, Mohammad met a Christian who invited him to his house. “He gave [Mohammad] a Bible and asked him to read. When he opened the Bible, the first verse he read was ‘And all who accepted Him, He gave them authority to be the sons of God,'” VOM contacts said. “Mohammad said it was like an electrical current went through his body when he read those words,” VOM contacts added.
“The word of God is powerful,” Mohammad added.
Following his conversion, Mohammad was arrested and imprisoned for two years. “He experienced miracles after miracles in jail,” VOM contacts said. “The authorities told the extremists in prison that he was a convert so one of them would kill him. But the Lord protected him and kept him day after day. During his time in jail, his wife accepted the Lord, his daughter who is in university and his son who is a teenager.”
Since Mohammad’s release from prison, many attempted to kill him. He has been receiving all kinds of threats from neighbor and his extended family since he was released.
VOM contacts added, “No one wants to employ him because he has converted to Christianity. Somehow, Mohammad found a job and he was doing great. Before the end of the month, his employer fired him without reason and did not even give him a salary. When he got home he received a phone call from the national security [office] warning him if he ever tries to work he will be killed. They told him, ‘You should be dead by now, be thankful that you’re not.'”